Welcome to the Sonnyside Up! coop in northeastern South Dakota!
2015 is the Year of the Chicken. Maybe not on the Chinese calendar, but it is on mine.
The end of March, I was on a drive home home from an out of town work trip one evening, when my uncle called. He said he was going to demolish his barn. This was the barn of my uncle, my grandma, and my grandpa...a big part of my childhood. Built in the 1800s from cedar, board and batten, it was a big beautiful red barn in its day. I said, " I would really like a board or something." He said, "No problem." I said, "Maybe I could get a few... I would like to build a chicken coop." He said, "A CHICKEN COOP? WHAT??? YOU WANT CHICKENS?" "Yep." I said. And that was the beginning. The next day we met at his farm a pulled a few boards. And the next day we pulled a few more...and I spent a few days pulling a LOT of nails.
Even better... inside of the barn, he had a small feed bin. It was the perfect canvas to begin to build a coop. Never underestimate the power of FREE! A 6'x7' shell...perfect.
I forgot to take a pic before cutting off the top (I cut off around 3'). It was 8' tall and I wanted a shorter coop. My reasoning to make the sidewalls shorter, was to maintain heat in the winter, since I wanted eggs, and didn't want to butcher chickens. So here is what I almost started with. (That is why there are no plans... because it was already started and I built on what was there.) With the rafter design I used, I still have a full sized entry door, and lots of headroom to walk around inside the coop (rafter design is show a little farther down the page...).
Time to order chickens. In April, I learned chicken math. I decided I wanted 4 chickens for eggs. Then, I decided I should get 8, just in case I lost one or two, and winters around here are cold, so we would need more bodies to generate heat so they could keep each other warm. So, I of course ordered 12 from the local feed store. That would be perfect for the size of the coop and a nice sized flock. Well, I got to thinking..."Gee, I forgot I wanted some buff orpingtons.", so I amended my order to 16. 4 each of Rhode Island Reds, Buff Orpingtons, Black Sexlinks, and Silver Laced Wyondottes...it would be a beautiful flock. I picked them up on the 13th of April. Here are the Little Peepers. (The photo was taken through the side wall of a clear tub...sorry it's cloudy.) A BIG SHOUT OUT TO THE ECOGLOW! I don't know who loved that more, them, or me. I highly recommend it to any new chick mamas.
For two weeks I guarded them, mothered them, kept them safe from the cats and dogs, and they were growing like weeds. Time for a bigger brooder. I carried them one by one to the bigger brooder... after 10, I thought, "Great, 6 more to go." I went back to the smaller brooder and thought... "That looks like more than 6." Yep, there were 11 more. I had no idea the farm store gave me extra. Apparently, they plan for some loss, as well! Oh no.... 21! I went from 4 to 21 and now I needed to get to work, and fast!
Puberty is not pretty.
So while these little girls are growing, I need to get to work and FAST. Let's get a roof on that baby. I had built a greenhouse from plans I found on the buildeazy.com site. (Another high recommendation from me.) I liked those rafters, so that is what I built for the coop. Here is a pic I copied from the buildeazy.com site. Head over there for a lot of different project plans!
My uncle said, "Don't you want an overhang on the ends?" I didn't know how to build them, so he said, they are called ladders. I googled ladders, and learned how to build ladders. Google and YouTube are my friends...my very, very dear friends... Voila...LADDERS!
Here is the coop with rafters and ladders. Woohooo! That was a big day! For those who don't know how to add an overhang to the gable end, you just screw those ladders on to the end rafters. It is pure overhang MAGIC!
Another view...because that was a big deal for me...
Next, it was time for some roof. So, some sheathing and roofing paper. It was nice to have it covered. It was the rainy season.
Like I said...rainy season...rain delay. Darn it! Those peepers are growing!!
But...eventually, I won, and it was shingled (white cedar shingles...love 'em).
and and only one casualty... Yeah, that hurt.
But, I didn't want my coop on a cement slab, it was to be up on stilts to protect the little peepers from varmints and to provide shelter when they want to be outside. Well, 4 holes, and 4 6x6's later... my brother comes to the rescue with his tractor and loader and we mount the coop on to the prepared stilts. I held my breath... and IT WORKED! ANOTHER VICTORY FOR THE LITTLE PEEPERS!!
That, my chicken friends, was a big deal. Whew. When I say I held my breath, I wasn't kidding. I might still be a little purple.
Are you doing okay? Do you need a break yet? Some popcorn, perhaps? Well, okay then...let's go on, shall we?
Now it was time for decisions. Remember, it was already a box, so I just had to decide what to do with the box that would best suit the little peeps. I did a lot of research, looked through the vast gallery of coops on this site (thank you all so much for sharing... that is a huge bonus for those of us new to chickens and building... so much information willingly shared!), and made some window decisions. I held my breath again and started drawing lines and cutting out windows. Once you make the cut and commit, the rest is finish work.
I used standard sized barn windows (22x29) on the front, and on the back and ends, I just screwed together 2x2s in the dimensions I needed. And of course, they needed a little door to get out, so I picked a spot and cut that out, too. Do you see those little cross pieces of 2x4s on either side above the pop door? Those were put in for support to hold the roosts inside the coop. My thought was more strength, so the 2x4 roosts wouldn't sag from weight and somehow pull free from the wall. Safety first!
Here is where I started to panic. Those little peepers were quickly turning into little cluckers; I had to get a move on! The pics get fewer and far between at this point, because I was in warp speed. Those girls need to get out of my house and into theirs!
I put up plywood to finish the inside walls and started insulating. I insulated with foam, and filled in the spaces with expanding foam from a can. I did that to side walls, and the floor. (Note to self... wear a hat next time... some of that spray foam dripped on the ground while I was under the building insulating the floor...it does not end well for hair...I gave myself a haircut. No cosmetologists need to worry about me taking their job... trust me... but the big chunks of insulation in my hair are gone.)
You can see the windows and the nest boxes through those front windows. It was nice and cool working in there! I insulated the ceiling with bat insulation. Remember... no pics, but if you would have seen me working, it would have just been a blur anyway... those peepers have to get out of my house!!! (Sorry, wished I could show you the process, but... they HAD TO GET OUT OF MY HOUSE!)
I sheeted the outside, wrapped the outside in roofing felt, sided, built a door, closed up the nesting boxes, I lime washed the walls, added hardware cloth to all the windows on the inside and added a poop deck and roosts. I declared MOVING DAY!
There they are... they couldn't believe their new digs. There was a party that night, for sure. They were dancing the night away. No arrests...thankfully... It was their first time ever seeing outside, they had only ever lived in a series of boxes. It was so much fun when I stepped outside carrying each one and they saw the world...they saw GREEN for the first time. Green trees, grass, all kinds of smells. It was a lot for a little peeper brain to take in!
These next pics are not quite to clean...because where there are chickens, there is chicken poop...and feathers..., but I wanted to point out some things I did on the inside. As you can see, I have almost a double decker. Since my coop is small for the amount of girls I have (Gosh! I really hope they are all girls!), I have 2x4 (placed flat) roosts, and the poop decks under each roost. The poop decks also serve as an additional walking around, hang out floor when the girls are inside. The have plenty of room to move around in there and stay out of each others' way. They can hang out on the main level, or up above on the other 3 walks. And... they can look outside from any of the decks. They dig that...they really dig it. They love to watch everything going on out in the big world. I also wanted their food and water to sit below the poop decks. This works.
These are the front windows (sorry for the bad shot...no photographers need to worry about me taking their jobs, either). You can see the washers and screws securing the hardware cloth, and you can see how low the windows are to the floor. THEY LOVE THESE WINDOWS. If they are inside and they hear my front door open and close, little heads all pop up and look out. It's so funny to see, and they love to be able to check out what's happening. I suggest low windows...my peeps agree.
And here is a shot of the nesting boxes. Empty now, but won't be for long. You can see they are low, too. As you do research from other chicken mamas and papas, you will learn to have your nesting boxes lower than your roosts. I think these will be great. I will add some curtains for them in the very near future, since it is getting close to laying time.
This is what the exterior looked like move in day.
I had to bring out a ladder every morning and night to get in there to do 'chores', and I was worried they were going to sneak out while I was balancing pails, scoops, litter, and dancing on a step ladder, so it was time to build a deck.
Phase one: a landing platform...
But, I still had to use a ladder to get in and out.
Remember, I'm using a lot of recycled lumber from the barn, right? Well, I found my uncle's notepad on a 2x6. Ha! Great find! I called him and told him, "I don't know what you are keeping track of, but you have 35." That is a treasure, for sure!
While I'm working, those poor little peepers, still haven't been outside, because there is no run. I have dogs and cats, so safety requires a run. In the meantime, they get to look out the pop up door (covered with a hardware cloth insert for safety). They loved it. They would all try to be the first one to 'the spot'. It was the primo spot in the coop. You can see a little buffy head looking out, if you look closely. Wish I had a better pic of that.
I'd better get to work on the run, you say? Yep, you are right about that. I'm all over it. It is safe enough for peepers... Let the games begin! Who will be first??? They are not quite sure about all of this.
Here is what they are thinking about walking out into:
It still needs a lot of work, but a peeper can be out there hanging out with their chicken mama while she is working. They were never scared of the pounding, screwing, cursing... oh no wait... there was no cursing... was there?
Freedom was SWEET!
The hardest part about building the run, that I couldn't find any info on, was how should I attach it? Well, since I couldn't see how anyone else did it, I just dove in. I screwed 2x4s right to the building, and screwed hardware cloth to the 2x4s. (the hardware cloth is tucked between the building and 2x4s, so there is no gap). I used 3/16" - 1" washers under the screws, so the hardware cloth couldn't slip over the screw heads. Worked great. That was enough for the run right now. I needed steps, man, and I needed them badly.
My next big HOORAY was steps. You don't know how much you love steps, until you have to use a ladder every day. Steps rate up there with the wheel in my book. I have steps!!!
As you can see... I had 20 supervisors, now. They love hanging out under the deck...it is totally their favorite spot of the run. Okay, so at this point, I'm getting there...time for the push to the end of the list.
Right... it is not finished, but these are some happy girls.
We needed some paint, and a 'Chicks Only' door. Some hardware cloth on the roof for hawk protection.
I decided to get them used to using the Chicks Only door, so when I use the people door, they don't try to escape and run into a waiting dog. So, when they get out to free range in the evening, they only use that door for exit. It has only been a week, but it works! When I walk toward the coop, they all crowd around the little door and wait for it to open. If i open the big door, they just hang out and look for food. I hope this trend continues, because it makes my life easier. I hate worrying about an escape chicken.
And this last week, I added a Brinsea automatic door opener/closer, a Chick Safe Extreme. WOW! That is great!! I have it set to open the pop door at 7 am, and it closes a little after sunset. The closing I set to go by light, not time. I can change that any time. It is so easy to set up. RECOMMENDED! (Because we have gotten to know each other so well, I am sure you will take me up on the recommendation. No need to thank me for it, I know how happy you are going to be.) Not the prettiest picture, but I wanted you to see it has to be mounted outside, and directly above the door. If you need a better picture, just let me know in the comments. I'd be happy to snap whatever you need.
Every coop needs a name! Sonnyside Up has found its Sonny! My Uncle Sonny, that is!
Here is a view of the back, where the nesting boxes are. I opted for the door to fold down, not the lid to lift up. My choice was based on weather...rain and snow.
And now we wait...for EGGS! Should be soon!
*Egg Update* The girls gave me my first eggs on August 23rd. What a day!
They were DELICIOUS! And so darned cute...pullet eggs are adorable.
I could not have done all of this without my Uncle Sonny, my friend Connie, and my brother Allen. They helped me so much. There is nothing like another set of hands to hand you a shingle, a nail, hold the other end of the long board, and the endless encouragement. Not only did they help, but it was so much fun to work together.
If you ever want to stop by for a visit, here are the directions... (anyone from SD knows how to get to Wall Drug from anywhere in the world.. ha!)
Thanks for letting me share the new coop! I wouldn't change a thing.